Gill Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution will not be Televised” is one of those songs that reverberate among U.S. civil rights campaigners even today. It became a national anthem for U.S. civil rights movements during the 1960s, for which Scott-Heron thought it needful to participate.
Soon the lyrics of the song became a spoken-word song which music connoisseurs and critics said was inspired by the New York ensemble, The Last Poets, who are noted for reciting black power poems over drum rhythms and conga in 1968. One of their favorite pieces was “When the Revolution Comes”, according to the Financial Times.
Biographer for Scott-Heron, Marcus Baram, revealed that the lyrics of “The Revolution will not be Televised” was inspired while the African-American composer was watching televised baseball games as a student at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in the late 1960s.
“The Revolution will not be Televised” is a rallying cry to African Americans to liberate their minds from the reality created in their minds by televisions and a charge for them to turn their attention to making social change a reality. This is captured in his lyrics when he said people will not be able to stay or jump out for a quick beer because the revolution will not be aired on television.
This lends credence to the argument that the revolution Scott-Heron talked about is larger than how it has been perceived by many civil rights activists and people to mean it is about street protests, according to Western Gazette.
Scott-Heron was advocating for the African race to liberate themselves from the mental chains they have been held in captivity for centuries. The demonstrations will be held, the agitations will go on, but, the most important step the African race must push for is a change in the status quo in order to see an improvement in their lives.
He argued that it is when these conditions are in place that the African race will be free from the structural burden imposed on them by the system. The revolution in Scott-Heron’s mind was not one that would happen with people being bystanders. It requires the active participation of everyone who is not happy and concerned with the system that impoverishes the African race.
The revolution Scott-Heron referred to does not follow the general rules of television where there is a break in transmission for commercials. He criticized the media portrayal of police brutality in the late 1960s and 70s when the mass media engaged in selective attention to injustices against African Americans by the police.
Scott-Heron makes this point by stating that in instances where the media shows interest in matters affecting African Americans, it tends to over-serialize it and blow it out of proportion. He was optimistic a day would come when police brutality will not go unanswered and dreamed that the perpetrators will be held accountable for every action or inaction taken against the innocent African American.
Scott-Heron was of the view that a day will come when the African American and other parts of the world will join in the advocacy for social justice and equality. This is what he meant when he said the revolution will be so impactful that there will not be the need for a rebroadcast but will be streamed while it is underway.